Yesterday we took a look at Variety's article on the swathe of Superhero shows coming to TV - and how it noted Marvel and DC's different approaches to linking their Live-action ventures together. Whilst the shared cinematic universe have proved a huge boon to Marvel, I don't think DC need to go down the same path.
Header Image: The casts of The Flash and Arrow at a read-through for the show's crossover episode. Image taken from The Flash's writers room on Twitter.
There was a lot of great debate in the comments yesterday on why a Shared Cinematic Universe can work wonders, and why it's sometimes a limitation - but in some ways for DC I think it's less of a limiting factor, and more down to the fact I think that they'd be much better off going it alone with most of their properties. Here's just a few of the reasons why don't really have to follow in Marvel's footsteps.
DC and the 'Me too!' syndrome
Just as it's a bit obvious to say that Marvel's had huge success with the proliferation of its Cinematic Universe, it might be a bit obvious to say that DC has had a lot less success not just connecting its live-action franchises. That's not to say they've not done well - the Christopher Nolan Batman movies performed gangbusters in cinemas during the trilogy's run, and despite middling critical reception, Man of Steel made over $650 million at the box office. But in the public mindshare, it often feels like there's a perception that Marvel are the kings of Comic book media, whilst DC struggle to catch up in a bid to emulate their success - the 'Me too!' Syndrome.
This is felt most strongly perhaps in the run up to Batman v. Superman. The good word about certain elements of it have rang out, like the new Batsuit and Batmobile, but Ben Affleck's casting as Bruce Wayne was met with widespread confusion and derision - and then there's the problem that Batman v. Superman not only largely seems to move away from the interesting universe that Man of Steel set up (poor Supes doesn't even get top billing in his own sequel!), but muddy it even more by trying to do over as much as DC can to wipe the slate clean ready to attempt a Justice League film. Time will tell whether DC pull off their lofty goals, and there is a lot to be excited about - but even then there's still a lot of doubt hanging over DC as to whether they can pull it off. It's a wonder that the company have kept trying instead of going to more standalone adaptations.
TV Success has shown it can be good to stand alone
Which brings us to where DC have already found a lot of success - Television.
The success of Arrow, heading into its third season next month, has proved to be a major one for DC. It's arguable that alone, the Green Arrow might not have worked as a movie star - but Oliver McQueen has hit the ground running on TV. Arrow's success, separate to DC's attempts to kickstart crossover franchises on the Big Screen, has shown that not everything DC put out has to be connected, and if anything, it's better on its own.
In the same Variety piece from yesterday, Maurissa Tancharoen acknowledged Agents of SHIELD's slow burn in its first half due to being beholden by Captain America: The Winter Soldier - but Arrow, or any other of DC's TV properties, won't have to be held to a larger vision. They can be their own thing, and not have to feel limited by that singular view - and considering that alongside Arrow we'll soon have The Flash, Constantine and Gotham offering interpretations of DC characters on TV too, that's a lot of creative freedom for each individual show to largely do whatever they like in DC's playground. And even when these properties do interact with each other, as The Flash and Arrow will, it's still on a much smaller scale - the impact will be on their individual shows, instead of a vast behemoth of a Movie/TV franchise. Neither Grant Gustin's Barry Allen or Stephen Amell's Oliver McQueen will show up on the big screen, the actors have said as much, and that's not necessarily a bad thing - It allows these two shows to stand on their own, regardless of what DC plans to do with anything else. As strong a benefit the shared cinematic Universe has been to Marvel's movies, if anything it feels like DC is on the cusp of proving that, at least on Television, it's not the only way to adapt comic books to other media. These properties can stand on their own just as well as they could together.
Different Universes, Different Interpretations
Image Credit: Map of the DC Multiverse by Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes.
But perhaps what is DC's strongest point about having most of its properties stand alone is that... well, it's kinda their thing to do that.
Sure, Marvel has alternate realities, but if there's one thing that DC is known for in its vast storytelling, it's the Multiverse. The huge cosmic mishmash of alternate realities and existences has expanded, been wiped out, been born again and rebooted god knows how many times, but it's always a staple of DC's wider pantheon. It can also be their opportunity to allow their live-action projects to offer standalone, new interpretations on DC's most popular characters - it's what's allowing us to have 3 different adaptations of Batman within the last decade already, considering Gotham is very clearly separate from the universes of The Dark Knight and Batman v. Superman. But why the Multiverse could be so important to DC's live-action plans as a whole is that would lend the weight and validation to all these projects that a shared universe would, but whilst giving them the also the freedom to offer a diverse variety of interpretations of their characters - and still having them all loosely connected through this cosmic reality. Sort of like having their cake and eating it.
It's not even something DC necessarily has to do, they could just as easily ignore it and go about offering more and more movies and shows without paying heed to it, but it would be a nice nod to the comics themselves if they hinted that shows like Arrow and The Flash stood alongside movies like The Nolan trilogy or Batman v. Superman, all as valid parts of DC's wider canon, even if they're not directly crossing over with each other. And it easily leads the door open for us to see even more DC characters and different interpretations of them make the leap from comics to TV and Film, too.
In the grand scheme of things though, it doesn't really matter what DC decide to do going forward - we can't really predict if Batman v Superman's hasty attempt to kickstart a wider universe will work out, considering it's not out for two years and we've seen so little. It might be a huge success for them! But at the same time, it does feel like the company are on the verge of rivalling Marvel's mainstream dominance - there's a lot of excitement from both the public and the press about their upcoming projects - and the fact that they're doing so with a largely different approach can only be seen as a good thing for ourselves as fans and viewers.
To get such a variety and a diverse scope from the big two really might mean we're entering a golden age of Comic Book TV.
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